We wanted to maintain beauty through proportion,” says Marek Reichman, Aston Martin Lagonda’s Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, as he describes his design approach for the new DBX. Aston Martin’s first SUV has a long wheelbase and short overhangs for optimum interior space, but its proportions give the impression of a smaller sports car, one that is instantly recognisable as an Aston Martin. “We work on what we call the golden proportions,” Reichman explains.
The DBX is a hugely exciting product for Aston Martin. On sale this spring, it is a much-anticipated machine and the fourth new Aston Martin in as many years. Before its arrival, the most recent three new Aston Martins focused on the company’s core sports car models; DBX is an entirely new construct, a venture into popular SUV territory. What’s more, it is the first product to roll off the new production lines at Aston Martin Lagonda Production and Technology Centre in St Athan, Wales.
From the outset, Reichman and his design team knew they had to shape an SUV with a uniquely Aston Martin character. “We stayed true to the initial sketch because it had that Aston Martin feeling — a very dynamic visual appeal, and with movement even when static,” Reichman says. “We then transferred our DNA to the surface language and feeling of an SUV.”
DBX has a single bold, flowing volume, with a swooping shoulder line that dips at the rear, clean side graphics and an elegantly tapered coupe-like roofline. There is visual drama here, yet the SUV message of power and ability is still present. The wheelbase stretches out as far as possible for the 22in wheels to sit confidently at the far corners. As a result, the stance and proportion create a clever interplay with volume and shape; DBX’s long, low roof, powerful haunches and swooping rear lines come together to forge a distinctive Aston Martin character.
The unique platform has been fundamental to its development. Aston Martin Lagonda Chief Engineer Matt Becker explains: “The new platform really helped with technology and design, allowing the car to look beautiful and drive like an Aston Martin.”
Reichman agrees that there were significant challenges in translating the design language of a sports car to this larger scale. “We wanted to give it some exotic drama and great proportion,” he says. “Creating our own platform for a bonded aluminium structure was one of the most important factors to getting an incredibly dynamic-looking SUV with the right Aston Martin proportions.”
There is lots of clever detailing on the DBX that unites it with its sports car siblings. At the rear, the integrated spoiler and swooping lights are a nod to the Vantage. “The rear is very much about mixing the dynamic language, with some unique aerodynamic surfacing happening here,” notes Reichman. The DBX presents the largest grille for the marque, with LED running lights and integrated turning signals positioned on either side. It features the marque’s signature side strake, as well as dramatic swan-hinged doors. Reichman feels it is important to maintain continuity with these symbolic elements. “This is our first venture into the world of SUV so it has to look like an Aston Martin,” he says.
Climb inside and the DBX offers a refined environment with the feel of an Aston Martin sports car. There is an abundance of soft leather with unique stitching, tactile metal elements and hand-carved wood, which all help to create a natural, more organic setting. The speaker covers are in leather, a neat metal button opens the glovebox and the full panoramic roof cover — which rolls seamlessly into place when it retracts — is finished in Alcantara. There is also a wealth of new advanced technology on board. A 10.25in TFT screen sits flush in the centre console, while a 12.3in screen behind the wheel provides vital information to the driver. There is Apple CarPlay, a 360o camera system and ambient lighting that offers 64 different colours in two zones.
Even though Reichman says it was important to give the driver and passengers the feeling of being in a sports car, at 6ft 4in tall, he is conscious that the DBX also had to be comfortable to occupy. “We made it easy to get in and out and created rear doors that open to a class-leading angle, as well as a straightforward low boot design. We used the technical advances and advantages of our sports cars and applied them to an SUV.”
The DBX is powered by the characterful 4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine found in DB11 and Vantage, tuned to provide an impressive output of 550PS and 700NM of torque in order to meet the needs of an all-wheel-drive SUV. The V8 has cylinder deactivation to assist fuel economy, yet it can boost speed to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 181mph.
Chief Engineer Becker has been an instrumental part of the development process. He encouraged his team to drive a whole range of SUVs at the start of the project four years ago. “We needed to open our eyes and understand the broad range of possibilities this car could have.” He confesses that the DBX was a huge technical challenge. “We had to change our testing process to include towing, off-roading and traction control development. Our SUV has to be a great GT and a performance sports car. It has to be able to carry a family of four comfortably, have room for luggage and go off-road. Working on sports cars has helped me understand their attributes and what to bring to the DBX.”
As a family car, the DBX has to be quiet and refined. Yet, being an Aston Martin, the DBX also has to be beautiful to drive, as well as have an authentic engine note. Having spent many months putting the DBX through every conceivable test, Becker is confident of its abilities and character. “A great soul is essential to us,” he says. “When you look at the DBX, you need to anticipate its driving dynamics. My job is to translate visual design into visual engineering. Marek has visually reduced the body mass, so when you drive it, you must also feel like you’re in a smaller car — an Aston Martin sports car. As you get behind the wheel, the DBX shrinks in its drive element. It does what a GT does, really, really well.”